Cliff Hillis

'Love Not War Stories' SONG SEVEN

SONG SEVEN- "Too Many Songs"

Here's the last installment of my random musings about the writing & recording of my new "Love Not War" EP. Hope you have enjoyed the stories!

So, track seven on the EP (I know that's a rather lot of songs to call it an EP, but it clocks in at a tidy 22 minutes all told) is a song that I wrote with the esteemed Mr. Dan Bern. The first time Dan & I got together to write at his place in L.A. we had really good luck, so the next time I was out west I inquired about a second writing session. He was very hospitable & we once again sat down to see what we might come up with.

I usually try to bring a snippet or two to a writing session to maybe spark an idea, just in case creating something from total scratch doesn't seem to be working. I had been staying at my friend Mark Turner's place near Los Feliz, and was strumming on my guitar before heading over to Dan's to write. I literally thought to myself about how many songs there were already in the world, and sang a little something into my phone. Turns out it was a starting point for "Too Many Songs". We worked up something we felt really good about. Dan liked my Beatles-y chords and I loved all of his lyrical offerings. We recorded a quick version onto a laptop, doing a little Everly Bros kinda harmony as we put it down.

Fast forward to the recording of the song... this was the last track of a fruitful evening where Patrick Berkery & Greg Maragos had laid down "The Buddha's Belly" and "Suicide Doors" before it. I think everyone was getting a little tired by the time we got to this one and it actually reflected in a good way, with a nice lazy performance that I think the song called for. Once again we got a mostly live take for the bass & drums, them guys are the goods!

I slowly built the song up, first with acoustic guitar and then with some moody piano thanks to Greg during our marathon keys session at his place. Dan had extemporaneously sang a bit of a trumpet solo idea as we recorded our original live demo & that kept resonating with me. David Kershner was kind enough to come over and basically chart out the idea, then played a really nice solo on trumpet. David had a cool idea for little majestic piccolo trumpet run behind the last chorus, it was a nice touch (listen for it!).

Not too long after we got the trumpet on, Shelley Weiss came over and laid down a beautiful string bed behind the solo section & end on violin and viola which totally brought things together. One funny note is that I had recorded a last vocal line of the song "there's still a place for this song", but it sounded a little hokey... I realized if I just muted it that it let Shelley's strings send the song off into the sunset. Definitely a good example of subtractive mixing.

I had really hoped to nail down Dan Bern to cut a harmony like the one we did for our quickie demo. I didn't think it was going to pan out, but then as fate would have it I was able to open the show the next time Dan came through Philly, and I brought my little portable setup & recorded his vocals just after sound check backstage at the Tin Angel. That was fun! And the dressing room has nice acoustics for vocals btw.

Once I had all the main parts, I added a some supportive electric guitar & some percussion and did the mix, sent to mastering and there ya have it. The last song of the EP was done!